Travel and Borders


This week’s European Headlines focuses on travel and border restrictions across Europe. We take a look at reporting from Slovakia, Ireland, Germany, and Belgium to see how the pandemic and increasing spread of virus variants are affecting border controls. 

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Austria Offers Aid 


Pravda reports that Slovakia has tightened conditions for crossing its border, with many people now having to go through fourteen days of isolation. With the situation in the country worsening, Austria has offered the help of medical personnel from the Austrian army. The Austrian Minister of Defence announced that they are currently investigating the specific needs and number of soldiers to be sent. Slovakia has requested further help from the European Union to provide doctors and nurses due to the worsening situation.

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Stretching the Tooth


The Irish Times reported this week that Irish authorities are unable to stop travellers from flying abroad to popular tourist destinations to attend dental appointments. The statement came after it was reported that people were booking dental appointments abroad in an attempt to bypass Covid-19 travel restrictions. A Spanish dental practice in Tenerife stated that they were receiving up to fifteen emails a day from Irish people looking for appointments and letters of confirmation. However, the majority of those who had booked appointments had failed to show up.

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Follow EU’s Orders on Borders


DW published an opinion piece written by Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jeanne Asselborn. Since the beginning of the pandemic, European states have emphasised that national borders do not stop the spread of the virus. Germany, who served as an advocate for coordinated border control measures in the past, has now acted unilaterally and implemented strict border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria due to the fear of new virus variants. The Foreign Minister argues that local border traffic should be guaranteed without any friction, as compulsory testing on borders without exceptions would cause kilometres-long traffic jams and result in disrupted supply chains.  As freedom of movement is an essential right in the EU and firmly enshrined in the treaties, unilateral border controls must be proportionate and strictly justified. Asselborn urges Member States to follow the Council’s recommendation to exempt people living in border regions from travel restrictions, as many of them need to travel daily to work. Cross-border communities equal to 30% of the EU population.

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Schengen Shutting Up Shop?


The Brussels Times reports on recent unilateral border restrictions in ten Schengen countries. One of these countries is Belgium, where non-essential travel has been banned since January 27th. Even though Member States have a legal right to implement border controls for health reasons, they often go too far, argues the article. These measures do not fall under the scope of the Commission’s recommendations, which encourage Member States to implement proportional measures. The Commission argues that bans should take into consideration whether the destination country is in a green or red zone. Belgian authorities will reassess the travel measures on the 26th of February.

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